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July 9, 2011 / Hannah

Practicing love

I am reading a book right now called ‘Storycatcher’ by Christina Baldwin. I am stuck on the theme of living a story and telling a story with the day to day stuff. I came across an interesting story in the book, about the Babemba tribe in Africa.

When a person in the tribe makes a mistake or a very bad decision that affects others in the community, the people of the tribe come together around that person and begin to tell about the admirable things that person had done. They share the good deeds, the loving acts, and great qualities of that person.

When a mistake is made, instead of turning to fear or vengeance, this tribe practices turning their love on. They love that person back into who they are. They remind that sinner of who he is and call him to live according to the greatness inside of him.

In the process then the community’s hearts are turned toward love and forgiveness, and the seeds of bitterness and hate are cut off before they take root.

I think it’s brilliant.

In the Psalms David says that his delight is in the saints. I think that dwelling on others’ greatness and love causes delight and joy to grow in our spirits.

Saint Therese of Lisieux is a saint known for her the joy she intentionally cultivated in her life. Her journals were found after her early death, and it was only then that those who knew her found how hard she worked to grow thankfulness and joy in her spirit. There was a fellow nun in the cloister who drove Therese nuts. There were a hundred things about this nun that irked her, and so she decided to pay special attention to this nun. She served her, loved her, smiled on her.

There is a verse that talks about loving your enemies, and it is like heaping fiery coals upon their heads… I wonder if it might be interpreted a little differently than I’ve usually understood it. Coal is a symbol for purification. And when it cools it turns to ash, which was used in mourning and as a sign of humility.

I think when I’ve thought about that verse, or heard it talked about, the idea has been that we should use love as a form of revenge, which I actually don’t think is possible. You cannot really love with anger in your heart. Jesus knew that. But when we actually turn to love to overpower the anger (not that it’s bad to feel angry) when it is time to forgive it has the power to heal our heart and maybe even to invite the enemy into the realm of love. To remind them of who they were created to be, and create a safe place for them to let go of and mourn their mistakes, then to live free of them.

 

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